March 20 is the first day of Michelle Obama’s visit in China, along with her daughters and her mother. The focus of this trip is on education and shared values between two cultures, but as a nation famous for its passion for food, Chinese public takes interests in the food adventure Michelle Obama will have during her visit which may include a fish head.
Earlier this month in preparation for this trip, Michelle Obama visited a Washington charter elementary school with a Chinese-immersion program. The six-graders who visited China last year gave the first lady a presentation, and offered lots of good eats suggestions when being asked on their Chinese food discoveries, including chicken feet and fish head. Mrs. Obama asked curiously on how to eat a fish head and said her daughters won’t be interested but she might give it a try.
While it seems shocking to people in many other countries that Chinese people eat these weird things, the widespread philosophy of cooking in Asia is not to waste anything as everything can be delicious if cooked skillfully. There are many cuisines with fish heads throughout East Asia. The most popular dishes include Fish Head Curry, which is red snapper fish cooked in a spicy-hot curry with vegetables popular in Singapore and Malaysia, Fish Head Soup in Casserole that is refreshing and rich milk-like soup in many parts of Asia, and Steamed Fish Head With Chopped Pepper originated in Hunan province of China.
The visit will be one week long and heavy in sightseeing. The places of interests Mrs. Obama will visit include the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City in Beijing, Terra Cotta Warriors Museum and the Xi’an City Wall in Xi’an and the Wolong Panda Reserve in Chengdu. Her time in Beijing is more than half of the trip, including school visits, speeches, discussions and roundtable on education programs and other cultural exchanges.
Hoping to spark new interests in Chinese culture among young Americans and promote further exchanges and cooperation, the first lady will update travel log, publish video and photo and answer online questions on the dedicated official website to draw attentions from Americans. If Michelle Obama indeed will try a fish head during her trip in China, the video of this will for sure attract Chinese people’s attention, if not Americans. PBS LearningMedia and Discovery Education also offer engagement opportunities and education resources for U.S. classrooms to explore the culture, geography, current events and people of China.
This is the first trip of Mrs. Obama to China and is her third solo travel outside U.S. The previous solo trips were to Mexico and the African countries of Botswana and South Africa.
Chinese people have high opinion of Michelle Obama. She has been well liked and considered to have very strong “soft powers”. Her role in promoting healthy lifestyle to battle the obesity epidemic in U.S., such as “Let’s Move” campaign and food label change proposal, is impressive for Chinese people as well.
The China-US relation has been bumpy in recent years due to a wide range of issues including human rights and technology development, and negative opinions about each other are evident from recent polls. Experts are generally optimistic on the outcome of this trip that it will diversify the connection between China and U.S. and improve the relationship from this soft and family-oriented approach.
Michelle Obama’s interest in Chinese cuisine and her learning of some basic Chinese language have been intriguing to Chinese public. Some people in China have already posted menu proposal for her trip to cover the star cuisines China has to offer. There is no doubt that Mrs. Obama will win more fans in China from this trip—she already has before the trip started. Stories of first ladies throughout U.S. history have been popular in China media promoted by this event. With so many unique achievements already, Michelle Obama may also be the first ever first lady of U.S. to try a fish head in China.
By Tina Zhang